Derm Topics

Patient Buzz: The Sephora Kids Craze | The Expert Weighs In

Good Morning America was one of several media outlets who covered the Sephora kids craze, where tweens shop for and use skincare products made for adult skin. What factors led up to the craze? How should dermatologists modify their approach when treating tweens and teens?

For expert advice, I reached out to Brandi Kenner-Bell, MD, assistant professor of dermatology and pediatrics at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine.

How did we get to the point where 10-year-olds are buying retinol from Sephora? What factors led up to this?

Social media. Kids have access to all kinds of information now and are being influenced and targeted by these product companies via social media influencers who are paid to hawk this stuff. We live in a beauty and perfection-obsessed culture. They convince kids they NEED all these things to be and stay beautiful forever. These kids then beg and harass their parents to buy them all this stuff, and parents have a hard time saying “no.” They see it as harmless. 

Has the Sephora kids craze impacted your practice? Are you seeing pediatric patients come in with rashes and other effects of using products made for adult skin? 

I wouldn’t say impacted from a dermatological perspective. But when they bring in multiple tubes, bottles and packets of stuff it takes a lot of time to read all the labels, explain what is good/bad/inappropriate and why, and then to help them sort through all the information they’ve absorbed from social media, much of which is inaccurate and some of which is dangerous. I have seen a few bad reactions, usually irritant reactions, some allergic reactions, but not too many. Often these products are labeled “all-natural” or “for sensitive skin,” but there are no vetted guidelines for what that means and product manufacturers are not held to any standards for which they are allowed to use these designations. 

What does this craze tell us about gaps in educating the public about proper skin care? 

I don’t think there is a dearth of good information out there, even on social media. There are numerous dermatologists who are very active on social media putting out good information. People are just choosing to get their information from non-expert sources. 

What does this craze tell us about the next generation and their interest in skin care? 

They are very interested and will likely continue to be huge consumers of skin care products. They are more aware of the immediate and long-term benefits of good skin care. The industry is only going to grow and, therefore, these companies are going to continue to target kids.

In light of this craze, how should dermatologists modify their approach when treating tweens and teens? 

Dermatologists should always be asking patients what they are putting on their skin (or in their mouths to benefit their skin). Ask them to bring their products to the visit so they are aware of potential interactions, confounding factors/products, etc. Dermatologists should not assume they are working on a blank canvas just because the patient is young. Dermatologists also need to educate tweens and teens, not just about how to use the prescribed medications, but what to look for in an OTC product, which ones are useful and which ones are useless, and tell them why.

What does this craze tell us about the need for dermatologists to be involved in public education, especially on social media? 

They do need to be involved and many are. But we are physicians, not content creators, so we will always be outmanned.

What else should dermatologists know about how to respond to the Sephora kids craze? 

Dermatologists need to keep up with the trends themselves so they can be educated about what their patients are seeing and doing. When dermatologists can speak about these trends with knowledge, they are more likely to be listened to and their opinion respected by their patients.

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